Jester: Where did the Latin stanza inside the liner notes of the Trust Obey album originally come from?
John: They are titles and verses from standard religious and classical music pieces. It was taken mostly from selected works by Arvo Part. 'Miserere' & 'Te Deum' in particular. He uses a great deal of standard Latin verse in his music and the portions of the Latin that I used in "Hands of Malice" were taken from the same sources that he used. "Hands of Malice" is like a heavy metal version of an Arvo Part song. Pick up the record called 'Miserere'. It is some really great choral material. Did that surprise you?
Jester: A little, because whenever I see a Latin verse in this genre of music I have a tendency to whip out my Latin dictionary and translate like a madman. And for some reason this particular verse did not make much sense in some areas.
John: What was off about it?
Jester: Both my handwritten transcription and the inadequacy of my dictionary.
John: The whole stanza is pulled from various sources. I simply used the lines that I liked the best. So it is all kind of jumbled together. Latin cutup!
Jester: How has the birth of your son influenced your current music and artwork?
John: I think it is going to give it a great deal more depth and make it fuller. All of the stuff that I do right now is fairly monotone. One could say that I work really well with the color of black. I think he is going to add some new colors to my work.
Jester: Which came first for you, your music or your art?
John: I think the art came first. I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. I've been fooling around with music for years as well but i didn't get serious and form a band until like 1984 or so.
Jester: What motivated to start creating and composing music?
John: In the eighties there was a great deal of visual music being performed on the East Coast. Bands like Sonic Youth, Big Black, Live Skull, & Sink Manhattan. I was also starting to get in bands like Einstruzende Neubauten as well. It was like nothing I had ever seen or heard before. Bands like the Swans conjured up some pretty strong imagery. So I decided to start exploring the visual areas of music as well. There are certain limitations concerning what you can say with visual work that audio work can overcome. I had always like to tell stories, having been involved with comics for years, so writing music was just another way to write a story.
Jester: Did you ever have any type or formal training before you started to write music?
John: No. It was totally self taught. I have no idea what I am doing musically.
Jester: What would consider your primary motivator in composing music? Do you do it mostly for personal pleasure?
John: What other reason could there be for writing music?
Jester: Money? Some people make music to preach or to entertain, albeit your music in not really conducive to either. Other people enjoy presenting moods & ideas to an audience.
John: I write music mostly for personal reasons. I don't really have an agenda that I would ever want to push on someone. I don't think my music lends itself to that. The feeling and moods that I write about are things that I would really like to connect and share with other people. I just do it without thinking. When you work you never stop to think about why. William S. Burroughs said, "A writer's compulsion is to write." Meaning anything else - criticism, explanation, reasoning - is probably best left to critics and historians.
Jester: What do you draw most of your artistic influence from? When one looks at your artwork and hasn't had the chance to meet you like I have, they would tend to think that you are one seriously disturbed individual. I wonder where some of these dark demons have spawned from when in fact you are a quiet and very self composed person.
John: That is the most common thing people say to me. "You are nothing like what I expected you to be." My usual response is to say that if I did look like the monster you had expected to find, I wouldn't be doing the work that I do. Because I do the work that I do, I'm a rather healthy and sane individual.
My work is derived from many sources. Most of my comics books start off as dreams or nightmares. Other things are derived from personal experiences, books that I have read, other peoples stories or experiences. Other peoples nightmares usually make very good stories.
Jester: Do you use you art and music as a kind of emotional release?
John: Yes. It is not quite therapy but close.
Jester: Can we expect a tour from either band in the near future?
John: I would really like to tour sometime soon. We do play live around once or twice a month here in Kansas City. The farthest we will be going in the near future is St. Louis. Maybe in spring we will tour the rest of the country. That will be around the time that the rerelease of the Crow sound track "Fear & Bullets" will be out and maybe we will follow the release with a tour. It is just very hard to arrange. Me and everyone else is the band are very serious about the music and want to tour, but we all have jobs. We love to play live but we all love our other work just as much. I could not put down my graphic work for two months to go on tour... unless we could cram a drawing table in the back of a bus. I am working on a new comic series due out next month and I need to work on that through the winter. I want to tour but I just have to find the time. The logistics of a live show are in place but scheduling and booking a tour takes time that none of us have.
Jester: How did you fall into the whole Fifth Column Records crowd and end up releasing two albums though them in less than a year?
John: Jared and I have a large number of common acquaintances. We were both very familiar with each others work and it was Brian McNelis that finally coerced us into talking to each other.
Jester: I noticed a large portion came together in Chicago in Trax Studios during the recording of the Chemlab album in October of 1995.
John: Yes, that was when I first got to meet Jared and Brian in person.
Jester: How did you get involved with Brian Lustmord to end up designing the cover of the "Deepnet" compilation for Side Effects Records?
John: That is cool that you've heard of that release. I just happened to get off the phone with Brian a few minutes ago. I did the artwork for a new Lustmord 12" that just came out titled "Dark Star" and he was informing me that it just came back from the manufacturers.
I met him through all the stuff that I was doing for the first Crow movie. He works with Graeme Revell and they were both involved with the sound track for that film (as well as the second one). I guess this can segue into another Nothing Records abortion story. I first met Brian Lustmord when I was talking to him and Graeme Revell about their score for the first Crow film. Nothing Records was interested in releasing my Trust Obey Crow soundtrack and Graeme's Crow film score as a double CD. At the time Graeme didn't have a label for this work, so he was into the idea. Back then Brian had first said to me "oh...Nothing records...Nine Inch Nails... I'll say no more." He wasn't too excited about the notion of associating with Trent's label. He was right. The whole idea of the double CD fell apart. Thankfully Graeme's score was released by Varese Sarabande.
Brian has a bunch of really cool releases coming out on his label that you should look out for. Watch for "Coma Virus" which is Paul Haslinger from "Tangerine Dream" I designed the artwork for that one as well as Loren Nerell: Lilin Dewa.
Jester: How much of a personal role do you take in maintaining and coding the Grinder web site?
John: I do most of the graphics and I kind of direct the coding. I try to keep it up to date and I do some of the uploading and write some of the HTML myself. It is a pretty simple, straight-forward site. There are about three or four other people that help me run it.
Jester: How did the whole NIN Internet contest originate. I did follow it through from beginning to end, but I was wondering where the idea was spawned from?
John: When the whole Nothing Records debacle was going on Jared gave me alot advice and empathy. He's been around long enough to have seen many label horror stories, so it was great to have him listening to my weekly rants about Nothing. I used to say to him that all I would ever get from Nothing Records was a paragraph, a footnote in Trent's biography. That used to make him laugh pretty good so I thought about turning that idea into a contest.
I've said this before, and I know people don't believe me, but I didn't do it to get back at Trent or piss him off or to be petty. I just thought it was funny. So I decided to make it into a contest and give away some neat prizes. Obviously people had a lot of fun with it when you look at some of the hilarious entries.
There were some NIN fans that had some fun with the contest and I promised that I would choose some of them as winners (just to, hopefully, prove I wasn't being vindictive and petty) and I did. However, I didn't really expect the other types of NIN fans to take it so seriously.
Jester: In your music, do you have any strong social or political events that inspire your lyrics?
John: All of my lyrics are pretty personal. It is very rare that there is a political event that inspires a song. I know some people write music that way and I think it's great but it just doesn't work for me.
When people ask me that question I always think of that Revolting Cocks song about the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India. I think it is good to point that sort of stuff out to people who wouldn't otherwise know about it but it also seems kind of demeaning as well. Real people died in that disaster and to take their misery and add a baseline and vocals to it, seems kind of crass and insensitive to me. Real tragedy used as entertainment. I guess I'm saying that I can stomach art derived from real social tragedy if it's done for reasons other than pure entertainment. Can you imagine trying to explain that RevCo song to a family member of one of those people who died in India? They'd have NO idea what you were talking about. A song? A live performance in a club? America: other people's suffering is our entertainment.
Jester: How did you get involved with STG and Idiot Stare to do the artwork for their most recent releases?
John: Shane from STG wrote me out of the blue one day and sent me one of their first cassette releases. So when they got their record deal it was a natural thing to ask me to do their artwork. When Chad struck out on his own it was just as natural to ask me to do his artwork as well.
Jester: Why did you decide to cover STG's 'Razor Raped Pain'?
John: It came about because I was just messing around with an acoustic sample and all of sudden I realized that I was playing "Razor Raped Pain".